Wednesday, January 7, 2009

American Gangster. B+


Even at a running time of three hours (I skipped the theatrical release so that I could watch the extended version) Ridley Scott's 'American Gangster' kept me watching intently the whole way through. Not once did I yawn or check the time to see how much longer I would be watching the film. Yes, 'American Gangster' is very entertaining. Right from the beginning we are informed that Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) is a violent and dangerous man as he lights a man on fire without the least bit of hesitation. We then get caught up in his life and discover the heroin deals he is making all around the world. He is a very smart man and he is making millions of dollars through his deals. He doesn't care that he is killing people by dealing the drugs. He buys his mother (Ruby Dee) a massive house but ceases to tell her how he has become so rich. Even though she doesn't inquire about it, we sort of know that she suspects he is making mistakes in his life. The other main character is Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe) a detective who links several pieces of criminalization that leads him to Lucas. Roberts is also having trouble with his personal life and some scenes of the film take place in court where he and his wife Laurie (Carla Gugino) are filing for divorce. Another character is Trupo (Josh Brolin) a corrupt detective, who, though he is trying to catch Lucas, only cares about himself. I think the movie would have been better if Trupo was more of a character. Brolin gives a nice performance, but the character was a little weak. The acting of Washington is superb, but I found Crowe a little off. It is inevitable that he tried too hard, though he isn't awful by any means. Also it seemed that the movies focused too much on style and not enough on emotion. That is one thing I've noticed from watching Scott's recent pictures. He glosses them over with slick music and smooth editing and visuals, but he forgets to create characters who we care about emotionally. Still, this is a very well made movie. Scott and his team have crafted a solid film and a great piece of entertainment. Plus, this is based off of a true story. There is a part that is really disheartening toward the end when Lucas, knowing that he is done for, starts calling out names who are guilty as well. You'll be surprised and sad to learn the truth.

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